Building relationships is very important in the professional world. Whether you attend networking events or seek out a mentor, connecting with others is useful not alone during your job search, but for your career in general.
But if you’re still in the early stages of your working life (or maybe just getting started), it can be intimidating to reach out to people who are seemingly much more experienced. You may wonder why anyone with a busier schedule who doesn’t need any help would be interested in sharing advice with you.
The truth is, his or her time is precious, and it’s not as simple as asking for a meeting over coffee. It’s not impossible to get the attention and time of someone you admire and want to learn from, but you need to be strategic. Here are a few tips for reaching out and making a meeting beneficial for both parties.
1. Be intentional
When reaching out, make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for. Are you hoping to get feedback, or get an introduction to someone? Do you want to switch careers and learn about the industry? Reflect on your job search goals so that you’re able to discuss it clearly when you sit down to meet with the person.
2. Do your research
This is an important one. Think of it like you would a job interview: (hopefully) you wouldn’t show up without learning a bit about the company. Take a look at the person’s website, LinkedIn profile or any press that has been written. Not only will this help you ask specific questions about projects he or she has worked on, but it also shows you care about and admire the work (and value his or her time!).
3. Keep it simple
Chances are the person you’d like to meet with is extremely busy and as much as they may want to help you, is probably unable to rearrange his or her schedule to do so. Keep it simple and clear so they have a reason to say yes! Note why you’d like to meet and that you’re flexible. Choose a location that’s convenient and even mention that you’ll cover the cost. By suggesting a few dates and time periods that would work (without overwhelming them with your schedule), you can make it easy for them to agree to a short meeting.
4. Be proactive
There are a few things you’ll want to do if a meeting is scheduled. Arrive early, so you can find a quiet spot, wait for the person to arrive until you order your drink so he or she doesn’t feel awkward – and offer to pay. Make eye contact, put your phone away and stay engaged. It’s also important that you lead the conversation, depending on his or her personality. Since you arranged the meeting, make sure you’re prepared with talking points and questions. Be sure to listen carefully once you’ve asked your questions, and mind the time since you promised to keep the meeting short.
5. Follow up
As you would with an interview, be sure to follow up to thank the person for his or her time. It possible follow up on a talking point as well, if it’s relevant and include additional information or next steps if those were discussed. If something comes from the meeting, such as a new contact or an interview, be sure to let the person know the outcome and show your appreciation.
Reaching out to someone you admire or don’t know personally can be intimidating. But when so many great outcomes are possible, it can be worth the fear of rejection or awkwardness! You may have a coffee meeting that changes the course of your career, or at least receive some valuable advice.